The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 16, 2005

UI Center For New Music Features Guest Pianist Von Blumroeder Dec. 4

The University of Iowa Center for New Music (CNM) will present a free concert featuring guest pianist Patricia von Blumroeder performing the American premieres of two new pieces for "prepared piano" at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

A flexible organization devoted to the presentation of the music of the past 100 years, the Center for New Music is directed by David Gompper, a faculty member in the theory and composition area of the UI School of Music. Part of the UI Division of Performing Arts, the center supports its own performing ensemble and presents concerts by guest artists.

The Dec. 4 program features the first American performances of "Inside Cage " by Gompper and "Ricochet" by German composer Bernd Thewes. Both pieces call for prepared piano -- that is, a piano that has had its sound altered by placing foreign objects between or on the strings. In both cases, preparations are the same required for the "Sonatas & Interludes" by John Cage, one of the first and best known pieces for prepared piano, composed 1946 through '48.

On the program, the Gompper and Thewes pieces are framed by a complete performance of the Cage score. The two new pieces were created for, and first performed Nov. 22 at the contemporary music series AVANCE in Mainz, Germany.

The complete program will start with the first eight sonatas and two interludes from Cage's score, followed by Gompper's "Inside cage." After intermission, Blumroeder will play Thewes' "Ricochet," followed by the remaining sonatas and two interludes by Cage.

A composer, philosopher and writer on music, Cage was a leading figure of the post-war avant-garde. His ideas and innovations are echoed today in many contemporary works, both American and European. While Cage is most famous for his 4' 33" -- a piece that consists entirely of silence from the performer -- he continued to explore sounds in many of his later works, in many cases incorporating elements of chance into the scores.

"Sonatas and Interludes" is considered Cage's first mature composition. The idea of a prepared piano filled with nuts, bolts, screws, rubber mutes and weather-stripping came from several sources, including experiments by the American composer Henry Cowell and Cage's own experience with percussion ensembles. It has been an influential piece for American composers in the second half of the 20th century.

Gompper explains that the music of "Inside Cage" is generated from two sources: the five pitches represented by the letters of the word C-A-G-E-D, and the idea of being outside or inside a cage.

"The sounds of the piano fall into three categories: dry (drums), semi-dry (drums with sustained quality) and sustained (gamelan bells)," he wrote. "I mapped those sets of timbres onto three imaginary placements: looking into the cage (sustained yielding to semi-dry), circular movement inside the cage (dry), and looking outward (semi-dry yielding to sustained)."

Thewes has written that he considers Cage's preparation of the piano as "an act of disintegration . . . The piano as a single instrument with unified sounds has now been turned into an instrument with different specific sounds, like a percussionist who assembles a setup from a wide array of instruments.

"In 'Ricochet' I use all 88 keys, not just the 45 which are prepared by Cage. So the musical figures, in the sense of a ballet, superimpose the individuality of the prepared sounds. In order to perceive this phenomenon better, I used a simple musical theme that was deduced from the bouncing (ricochet) of a ping-pong ball against the strings. I worked up this theme using the principles of classical counterpoint . . . I would describe my piano piece as a musical object that resides in the conflict of gesture and figuration."

Born in Oakland, California, Blumroeder studied piano at the University of Idaho, the UI and the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik in Freiburg, Germany. Concerts, radio broadcasts and television appearances in Europe and America have given her a reputation as an artist who does not confine herself to the traditional piano literature, but has a keen interest in the new music of the 20th and 21st century. With a wide contemporary repertoire, she has been acclaimed in performances of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "KLAVIERSTUECKE," Olivier Messiaen's "Catalogue d'oiseaux," the piano works of Boulez and Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes." She has performed as a guest artist at music festivals in Paris, Lille, Leipzig, Hamburg, Salzburg, Fribourg and Zagreb, at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt am Main and at the Berliner Festwochen.

Gompper has lived and worked professionally as a pianist, a conductor, and a composer in New York, San Diego, London, Nigeria, Michigan, and Texas. Since 1991 he has been at the UI as professor of composition and director of the CNM. In 2002-03 he lived in Russia as a Fulbright Scholar, teaching, performing and conducting at the Moscow Conservatory. This fall he is also teaching composition as an adjunct at the University of Minnesota. In October 2004, Albany Records released a CD entitled "Finnegan's Wake," with performances of works for violin and piano by Gompper and Viennese violinist Wolfgang David. They recorded a second album last September, including works by Debussy, Messiaen and Bartok, among others. Visit davidgompper.com for more information.

Thewes started playing the piano at age 15. He has a master's degree in musicology, but says that as a composer he was self-taught. He was the organizer of a series of new music concerts from 1988-1997, and together with Michael Gross produced radio broadcasts at four German radio stations. He has written numerous chamber and orchestral works, as has been active in diverse fields involving sound installations, electronic and film music, an opera and building new instruments. A CD of his music is available from Acapulco Records. More information can be found on his Web page, www.bernd-thewes.net.

The Center for New Music was founded in 1966 with a seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The center promotes the performance of new music by providing a core group of specialists in contemporary performance techniques. Its programming has included world premieres as well as acknowledged contemporary masterworks.

In 1986 the center received the Commendation of Excellence from Broadcast Music, Inc., the world's largest performing rights organization, and it recently received grants from the Aaron Copland Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Today, the Center for New Music is supported by the UI Division of Performing Arts.

For more information, including extensive program notes for this concert, visit the CNM Web page, www.uiowa.edu/~cnm/ .

The CNM and the School of Music are part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072, peter-alexander@uiowa.edu.